Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let's Talk About Raiding

Six months into The Burning Crusade, progression had come to a dead halt. Factors included a thinned pool of raiders after 40-Mans shrunk to 25-Mans, Ater's growing work schedule which took him away from researching boss strategies, and a lack of assistance from Blain, who had retired from leadership to pursue arenas. More than anything, however, the family-friendly guild I had grown from a handful of friends at the start of Vanilla lacked a common set of expectations in approaching raids. Every player defined 'fun' a different way, and many players allowed their own interpretation of 'fun' to absolve them of any accountability in raids. 

When Ater, Blain and I determined that we had to find a way to motivate a family-friendly guild to approach raiding with the mindset of a hardcore player, we determined three things needed to change. We had to foster a sense of individual ownership in the guild's goal of defeating Illidan. We needed everyone participating in raids on the same page, which meant everyone's expectation had to match that of the guild's. And, we needed a way to identify those players which were aligned with the guild's goals, keeping them separate from those whom chose to tread off the beaten path.

By the beginning of October, Blain had returned to raid leadership and turned around the stagnant progression team, going from no progress in months, to going 5/6 and 1/4 in SSC and TK, respectively. As we began to acknowledge the efforts being made by the team to foster ownership of the guild's success, it was time to tackle resetting expectations. I drafted a forum post which intended to clear the air and set the record straight on exactly what we were trying to accomplish.

Submitted for your perusal is the content of that original forum post titled "Let's Talk About Raiding", initially drafted on October 8th, 2007.

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When DoD first began raiding, we honestly did not know what we were getting into. A bunch of us were heading over to Zul'Gurub one night to tackle some content when Kadrok sent me a tell, "You know...we have 40 level 60s on right now. We could potentially go to Molten Core." And with that one quick whisper, God damn him, it was over. We were off and running, pretty much by the seat of our pants. The officers and I scrambled to find out what was fair, how to distribute loot, where to learn about boss strategies, when the best times to run a raid were, who should lead those raids, and what all of our roles would be. And while all of those decisions were made, we tried to keep the atmosphere fun, laid back and enjoyable.

A lot of players would call this: "Casual Raiding".

We ultimately decided that, for what our guild wanted to do, 2 hours an evening was an adequate amount of time. And, furthermore, we would maintain a large pool of players, and focus heavily on rotations. Rotations would allow us the freedom to have more people available to fill spots in an emergency. What we found in practice, however, was the following:

1) Two hours an evening was barely enough to accomplish anything. As the raid-game increased from MC to BWL, and BWL to AQ40 and so on...we felt we had a responsibility to continue running old instances, and so continued to grow our guild to a massive size, which lead to problem #2...

2) The rotations which were to help us fill spots, now became our crutch: We would rotate so many people in, we would often find ourselves running a raid with strangers, with whom we were unfamiliar with, gear-wise, spec-wise, and experience-wise.

You live, you learn. We adapted and changed our outlook on raiding slightly, while still maintaining a sense of the original guild's vision, "To have fun, and enjoy playing WoW in a respectful, mature group of players, and to progress as far as we could through end-game."

However, TBC threw us a curveball again. We discovered from previous raids that two hours is simply an unacceptable amount of time to get anything significant accomplished. Two-hour blocks cannot be overcome by adding more nights to the week; you inevitably end up with another insignificant amount of time where nothing is accomplished, and it causes burnout. Furthermore, our pool of raiders has become saturated with people that are perfectly comfortable with doing the minimum amount possible, relying heavily on their raid-mates to cover their ass, or hoping that Blain will instruct them on-the-fly as to what it is they ought to be doing. And in their defense, some direction is in order ("no direction" is flat out dumb)...but hand-holding is far too much micromanagement.

DoD will always be a guild where you can log on and hang out with friends and enjoy some quality time with people you like, I will never impose restrictions on how/when you should play WoW. But, starting today, the restrictions on the raid-team requirements change. Let's talk about those changes now:

1. Guild Ranks

The Guild Ranks have changed:

A. Guild Leader. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

B. Raid Leader. Blain. He oversees everything that goes into raiding. What bosses are we working on, and which nights. Who our top raiders are and who remains a liability. He'll mark targets and be sure that by the time we kill a set of trash, the next set is already marked. He'll review boss strategies with us pre-pull, but he won't hand feed them to you. He'll let you know when we are performing well and when need to call the raid because it's our third (and final) attempt on Lurker. He is the coach of the team, and as expected, you'll execute his plays.

C. Class Officers. You'll remember these folks. They will carry on with their duties. They'll give you advice on your class, spec, and generally be a mentor if need-be. They help me with handling applications, and will be doing a bit more in their off-hours to recruit across servers, but for the most part, their role remains unchanged.

D. Raid Assistants. This is a new role I've created to help manage raids. Raid Assistants are people of various classes and roles that are vital to a smooth and efficiently run raid. Raid assistants have various roles, such as calling out targets, declaring healing assignments, communicating cc targets to the raid, and so on. In their off-hours, they communicate raid needs back to officers, the raid leader, and myself, so that if we have poorly performing players, we know to take action. They understand raid mechanics well and will assist you in learning how to use Wow Web Stats to improve your own personal performance. They also have access to officer chat, so they can let us know discreetly if there are grave concerns in a raid that need changes.

E. Bank Assistants A & B. These are two placeholder ranks I hope to take advantage of in WoW 2.3. More info will come on their use when I know more about the future of guild banking.

F. Raider. If you are a raider, you've passed the test. We've raided with you and seen that you are a huge benefit and a core member of our raiding team. You'll be considered for all rotations in the 25-man progression raids.

G. Veteran. You have been with DoD for a good long time, and you may not necessarily feel that Raiding means all that much to you, in fact, it means more to you to hang out with us online, chat, perhaps level some alts or run some 5-mans. It simply means you have a different goal and direction than the raid-team and nothing else. You are still an important person to us. You are a veteran.

H. Recruit. You're new to DoD and still cutting your teeth with the guild. We'll promote you when we see that you've made a name for yourself with us.

I. Silenced. You've pissed us off, and now it's time to be quiet.

2. Raiders

The rank of raider is a special one. It lets us know you are an exceptional player, looking to do exceptional things.

A) You care about self-betterment. Constantly striving to improve oneself in the PvE realm. It is your day-to-day tweaks  that make our raid team strong and dynamic. To you, it is no longer acceptable to just be 20-30% below your fellow players in a statistical analysis. Every night you raid, you push yourself hard to be #1.

B) You have the same vision as the raid team: Serious, competitive progression through end-game raid content, with the ultimate goal of conquering all that WoW has to offer.

C) You learn quickly, can adapt and work well under pressure. You take criticism well, and grow from it. You have excellent coordination and can deal with emergency situations, and you hone this skill in your off-hours through PvP.

D) You are always prepared, with consumables and flasks. You are on time and never make excuses. You take personal responsibility for your own performance, and never blame other people for your own faults. If you have a legitimate problem with another player, you take it to a Raid Assistant, or higher up the food-chain, if need be.

The main difference between raiders before and raiders today, is simply this: Raiders are here to win, at whatever the cost. For some raiders of the past, it may have equated to "Just something to do tonight, no big deal, just here to have fun." It's important to understand what's wrong with this thought now:

Raiders who want to justify poor performance and behavior with 'just being here to have fun' are not raiders.

To the new raid-team, our definition of "Fun" is constant, consistent success.

In order to do that, we all need to be on the same page and be in the same frame-of-mind, and that is to stay sharp and be performing at the top of our game...every night. If you are here simply to fill the evening with something to do, or you feel compelled to raid because of something we've said or done, now is the time to step down from raiding. To those who wish to stay on and help us work through this content, I salute you. Read on...

3. Schedule

The new schedule begins this week, and it is as follows:

Friday: 7pm - 11pm (MST)
Sunday: 3pm - 7pm (MST)

We are going to start with two blocks of four hours each. The #1 cause of burnout in the past is too many nights of the week where nothing is accomplished. Most dedicated, PvE focused guilds raid in blocks of four hours (anything more is simply ridiculous imo). We are going to ease ourselves into this new schedule to start, and see if, in the near future, we can possibly work a third night in. For the moment, I want the Raiders to focus on Fridays and Sundays until we come to a point where we can reschedule.

These two blocks of time were chosen, simply to allow the most Raiders an available spot due to family- or job-related restrictions. For people that balk at this initially, keep in mind that I am well aware of Tuesdays and Wednesdays being the most common nights of the week for raiding. If we can move to them in the near future we will. I politely ask that the Raiders please work with us on these initial nights and we will see how well we do before manipulating the schedule again.

4. The Raid-Game

1. We will be analyzing our top performers each weekend and rewarding exceptional performance with gold from the bank, to assist with repairs and flask purchases. It doesn't mean you have to be #1 Dps or #1 Healer...it just means you have played well enough that weekend to make the raider leader and assistants take notice. All raiders should have the potential to be #1 at any given night, based on their luck with crit streaks or other random factors.

2. All raiders are now flasked. Every night. This is no longer optional. Potions are mandatory. Mana for casters, Health for DPSers and Tanks. Food is optional but extremely recommended. It is cheaper to flask for trash/bosses, then it is to wipe and re-clear. We are going for the gold, and we are going to be buffed accordingly.

3. We are imposing a three-wipe maximum, also to curb burnout, and to encourage the raid-team to stay alert at all times. In a four hour block, the potential for burnout on 2 full clears of trash and 17 attempts on The Lurker Below is mind-numbing. Perhaps in other guilds, the Raid Leader would call you "idiots" and continue to throw you at the boss until he dies, but we're not even going to bother. If your head is not in the game and you can't perform the task on bosses we've killed many times before, the raid ends early and you go home empty handed. I don't want to suffer through four hours, and neither does Blain or the rest of the team. So, a three-wipe maximum on previously killed bosses is your "room to breathe".

If the first question out of your mind is, "Does the three-wipe maximum reset on each boss?", my answer to you is, we'll call it as we see it. Obviously, this rule doesn't count on bosses we're learning.

4. We are going to be looking at raiders (current and future) and their abilities spent in off-hours PvPing. It has become painfully clear that most of the dynamic players who work well under pressure and adapt quickly in emergency situations do so because they have honed their skills PvPing. I am going to recommend that raiders do investigate some PvP in their off-time if they have not yet done so.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would hope that these changes encourage and revitalize a lot of you for raiding. For some, I won't disagree, it may be painful, or hard to take. I will not hold it against you if you cannot step up to the task of meeting these new requirements. If you are burnt out, or if raiding no longer holds the appeal it once did, now is the time to step down, so that we can begin the process of looking at our pool of raiders and recruiting if need be.

2 comments:

Bryan said...

Shaun, been following your posts up to this point, and well, I don't know what comes next, but this post to the guild seems like a real culmination of learnings from the time you started DoD to now. It's like a milestone, almost an achievement that you've been able to work through serious challenges and setbacks and come out on the other side with clarity for yourself and your guild. Congrats :)

And loving your writing, it's captivating. I was a non-raid WoWer for 5 years, so all these stories about super-hard bosses is exhilarating!

Russell said...

I'm amazed that you left food as optional. Golden Fish Sticks ftw. :D